May 26 In Hip-Hop History: Aaliyah Releases 'Are You That Somebody?'


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Fans of Aaliyah will never forget the first time they heard the revolutionary singer's iconic hit "Are You That Somebody?" Whether it was Timbaland asking 'Dirty South, can y'all really feel me?" or that little baby's cheerful laugh, everything about the song still captivates fans to this day.

On May 26, 1998, Aaliyah's "Are you That Somebody?" was released as a part of the official soundtrack for Dr. Dolittle starring Eddie Murphy. The song was co-written by the late Static Major and Timbaland, who also produced the record. Aaliyah was 19 when the stand-out track for the film hit radio stations across the country.

The song also arrived with its iconic music video. Directed by Mark Gerard with choreography by Fatima Robinson, the video allowed fans to witness Aaliyah transform from an ambitious teenaged R&B singer to an multifaceted artist and skilled dancer, who would eventually be bitten by the acting bug herself. In it, Timbaland and his crew ride through a hologram into a cave where Baby Girl and her crew awaited. A hawk appeared as a nod to her opening lyric "Boy... I been watchin' you like a hawk in the sky/And I thought you were my prey" before she busts out two major dance routines inspired by Hip-Hop and Flamenco.

Despite the popular soundbite, no babies actually appear in the video. In a recent interview, Timbaland actually revealed Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory was the inspiration for the beat. He also explained why he integrated a baby's laugh into the beat.

"So I was going through my effects sounds, and I heard this baby," Timbaland said. "Was it a baby, was it a chicken, there was a cow, there was Godzilla, this whole row. And this baby came across, and it was laughing, and that [one sound] wasn’t the whole thing. It was like [imitates four consecutive baby giggles]. I got to that one part, and as soon as the beat came on, I just hit the button. I didn’t think it was gonna work. I was talking to Aaliyah from where she was sitting on the couch, and I just hit the button and it was in key. Everything was perfect. I put it in the song and she said, “Oh that’s so cute!”

"Are You That Somebody?" is still considered one of Aaliyah's most commercially successful songs to date. It earned the late singer her first-ever Grammy Nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Her song also went on to inspire a generation of other artists from Jennifer Hudson to Drake, both of which have sampled elements of the record in the past.

Relive the iconic song on its 25th anniversary above. Rest in peace, Aaliyah.

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